I remember the early days of our relationship. In the 9 months between meeting and marrying, my wife and I were only in the same city a mere 40 days or so. We were divided most of the time by an ocean, but thankfully had great support in both the US and UK. Therefore, in those many days apart (even when we were both in the UK), we spent much time emailing and texting by phone. I’m talking about emailing and texting a whole lot! It was all-consuming as we looked to stay in touch day after day after day.
As our relationship heightened, we began calling each other, though we also maintained the little love notes via text as well. Our mobile phones were the major place of communication. I remember one month my UK mobile phone bill was around 85 GBP, which was some 50 GBP more than the normal monthly bill. I was shocked, but it was truly worth it in my eyes.
We also moved into the realm of love-letter writing. After moving back to the US, being even further apart from my beloved, this became an integral part of staying in contact, expressing our heart’s desire for one another. And, of course, both of us saved each and every one of those emotion-stirring, affectionate letters. They were not just words. They were an expression of the love we had for one another. And being so far apart, you can imagine their role in articulating our deep affections.
It was extremely difficult following our engagement in the US. After visiting the US for a full 7 weeks, my beloved had to return to the UK to prepare for our wedding and finalising details before moving to the US. It was a painful 9 weeks apart. But, again, I am thankful for the frequent phone calls and almost weekly letters.
But, of course, once we were married, we were able to be together forever. We were no longer divided by the space of an ocean, thousands of miles apart. We were now joined together as husband and wife.
And, for all these years, even through difficulties and struggles and misunderstandings and arguments and wrong words and wrong actions (mainly on my part!), we have looked to remain true to one another by God’s grace. From multiple moves across oceans, to the bearing of our children, to struggling in how to lead a church forward in a completely different culture, to handing that ministry over for new opportunities in God, we long to stay faithful to the love we hold one for the other. Through all this time, we came to know one another’s likes and dislikes, dreams and passions, and even what we share in common (like sushi!).
In the years of our growing relationship, we would even pull out old emails and love letters, to read over them, and be inspired by the love that began years ago. Of course, this is common to many a couples. But from our own perspective, we’re not thinking about all those others. Their love compares in no way to ours. This is part of our journey of the expression of the covenant love we are growing in for one another.
And how about the conversations, the deep exchanges over cups of coffee, over romantic dinners, over date-nights out, over holiday time away. Sharing of those desires and dreams I pointed to earlier. Even learning how to work through arguments and disagreements and deep wounds. The poured-out prayers to our Father for all sorts of things also knit our hearts together.
Yet, there was the day – the day I decided it was best that I stopped speaking to my wife.
Now wait a minute, don’t get mad at me just yet. It’s actually all ok.
You see, the day I made such a decision, I sat down with my wife and presented her with a gift. A rather amazing gift, I might add. It was a collage of all the love letters, emails and texts I had sent to her over our years of love, all bound into a beautiful anthology. I was even able to remember the details of quite a few of our conversations. And so I also included those within the volume.
As I handed her this hand-crafted book, I explained that it contained all my love in word form. Therefore, because she now had this extensive record, I no longer needed to express my love through the vehicle of words. We had reached a place where such expressions were no longer needed. And if she ever found herself questioning my love, questioning what I thought about her, well, she could read the text. There she would find the unveiling of my true love, all in the words we had shared for years past.
Ok, I’m sure you have easily caught on that I speak in parable here.
This never happened. Well, most of it did. But not the part about deciding to no longer speak to my wife. And I would never, ever desire to do such. Such would actually become counter-productive to the covenant relationship in which we have been joined together.
Now, I could actually put together such a record of the emails, love letters and conversations we have held in years past. That would be quite a gift! And I did something like this for our 5th anniversary. Such could be revisited over and over again as an inspiring reminder of our love for one another. But it would never actually replace the reality of real and authentic relationship. If I ever suggested such, well, my wife might not be too pleased. And that is quite an understatement.
Yet, I believe this can and does happen for much of the people of God. For many, it is somehow easy to accept that God no longer speaks because, well, we now have the bound anthology of the canon of Scripture. It’s all finalized. Or, if he does speak, it is only within the context of the words of those previous centuries.
But I believe such betrays the very nature of our God, a nature that is relational at its core, with communication being the very essence of God’s relational nature.
Please don’t completely misunderstand this statement here, but: we are not ultimately people of the book. We are ultimately relational beings, sons and daughters of our Father. We are ultimately people of the Spirit, the Spirit who has been sent to continue to communicate and speak on behalf of the Father and Son.
If I cause anyone to stop in their tracks, I’m fine with that. But try not to miss the point. I am not so much addressing the nature of Scripture. I am not here to say that there is no great investment within the communicative-speaking nature of our God as shown in the revelation of the Bible. Matter of fact, just as my wife actually does find an expression of the unveiling of my love in keeping emails, letters and conversations within a safe-keep box (and I’ve kept quite a few things from her), we find an even greater display of God’s redemptive speech and acts within the text of Scripture.
But my wife would never bestow upon all of that written communication as the sole source of our relationship. It is para-revelatory, if you will. It goes hand in hand with the actual relationship we share on a daily basis. Actually, it might even become subsequent to the real love we share through being together and sharing deep, intimate conversation together.
So, you see the parable breaks down somewhat, as I am not relegating God’s revelation in Scripture as merely a side-project. But each parable has a major point, and that chief point I am looking to bring across is that our revelation and understanding of our Father must be seen in cultivating a real relationship together. And that real relationship consists of both actual speaking and listening one to the other.
It’s not even about investing our understanding of his voice mainly in the biblical words given in the past. It is, but to solely invest such into the Bible is, again, to betray a God who has been speaking and revealing and unveiling himself from the beginning (which includes well before our beginning). And I can only imagine he desires to do the same into the age to come.
Imagine those who recorded what has now been canonized into the Bible. I believe they would not be able to fathom a God who stopped revealing himself. Imagine ourselves in the age to come. As we hear the voice of the Father, we might just be filled with confusion as to why we ever thought he stopped actually speaking in the first place.
Again, for something so core, so essential, to the nature of our God, one cannot fathom he would simply stop.
I will never, ever stop speaking and unveiling my heart to my beloved, my wife. And I believe the same stands true for the One who has always spoken, is speaking, and will remain speaking for the age to come.